Porter House Reads: Beach Reads

Image of a wave washing up on a beach.

When I am lucky enough to find myself at the beach . . . or in the mountains, or simply on my couch with enough free time and a clear enough mind, I reach for a certain type of book. A book that reads smoothly, each page turning effortlessly and continuously, a book that sits so assuredly in my hands that even after I have read the last page I don’t want to put it down. The type of book that I find myself reading for hours on end, not because I need to read it, but because I want to. The book I reach for come summertime takes on a new quality; it reminds me of summers long past when the world was not yet mine to fret over—when it was hard to set a book aside and return to reality, rather than the other way around. As such, these books are reminiscent of my adolescence—reminiscent of the pockets of time that felt unbelievably invigorating in their stillness. These books need not stand for anything in particular, but they always touch down somewhere deep: taking gentle care to remind me that humanity is complex and entertainment is not simply a distraction, but the measure of what we have come to value. 


The Balloonists by Eula Biss

I think now of Eula Biss’s The Balloonists. This winding lyric essay contains the poignancy of poetry and the ache of memoir. Spanning a mere 72 pages, this book can easily be read in one sitting—but the images will linger. Biss uses honest, stomach-twisting details that are likely to bring up moments from your own childhood. Her style of piecey, strung-together vignettes is at first disorientating and intriguing, but as you read on themes begin to materialize and motifs click into place. Simply put: This book honors the fragmentation of memory, the heartbreak of being human, and the bravery of confession. 

Pick this book if  you are interested in complex familial themes in a genre-bending style that piques the memory, yet somehow manages to leave you with a sense of buoyancy after reading.

Jessica Bagwell, Assistant Field Notes Editor


Daily Rituals: How Artists Work edited by Mason Currey

Toni Morrison adapted her writing hours around her full-time job. Franz Kafka wrote late at night after his family had fallen asleep. David Foster Wallace often took naps between hours-long writing sessions.

I began this summer with the goal to find routine within the stretches of time that the break from school and work would afford me. I wanted to make headway on my novel-in-progress, revise the story drafts that had gone too-long-unopened on my laptop, and make a dent in my to-be-read book pile.

Routine—or, at times, lack thereof—is the subject of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work edited by Mason Currey, a compilation of the creative habits of writers, artists, and musicians throughout history and today. The book offers brief snippets on many prominent creators, making it an ideal read for anyone with a shorter attention span during all the distractions that summer has to offer.

Pick this book if you’re looking for inspiration and motivation to dive into your own creative projectafter you return from the beach, of course!

Molly Yingling, Managing Editor


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

A couple summers ago I read Less by Andrew Sean Greer (2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner). The book follows (failing) author Arthur Less as he travels around the world in an attempt to get over his ex-boyfriend. It was a really fun read with the best second hand cringe–as an American abroad, Arthur experiences all of the mishaps you would expect. The ending of this queer odyssey warmed my queer heart, too. 

Pick this book if you enjoy queer literary fiction with lovably unlucky protagonists.

SG Huerta, Nonfiction Editor


This Alaska by Carlie Hoffman & City of Departures by Helen Tookey

I like to write when I’m near the ocean, so I plan to take a few poetry books along as well. I’ve been reading and rereading Carlie Hoffman’s new book This Alaska from Four Way Books. There is a poem called “Midnight Sun” in the collection that starts, “When the dawn gulls call / we meet them near the wharf’s edge,” so this is a good one to have when smelling the salt air for sure. I’m also currently enamored with Helen Tookey’s City of Departures from Carcanet. The poems deal with memory in a city that feels salty and stormy. Although Helen writes from Liverpool, I’m reminded of the brambly beach gardens of New England with the flowers and stones that appear in the book. I’ll pick up some poetry to read through as I settle into a day of summer writing.

Pick these books if you are interested in poetry that calls on nature to evoke emotion. 

Cathlin Noonan, Public Relations Manager


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is a bildungsroman that focuses on nurturing an adolescent through the nature in which they live. It is a story that uses ecological themes to progress growth in the protagonist as she navigates her situation throughout the story. I’ve picked this book because my sister mentioned it to me after reading it at Santa Rosa Beach over the summer. While I didn’t have the pleasure of reading it on the sandy coast, I still enjoyed the experience of reading it on my porch during the summer season.

Pick this book if you seek a coming-of-age story that provides an experience true to the local color of the North Carolina wetlands.

Derrick Roberts, Special Projects Editor 


This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

My summer leisure reading suggestion is This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. It is a science fiction novel with a romance between two time-traveling rivals. Their story is pieced together by letters. Regarding leisure reading, I try to read something I typically would not pick up. I like to give myself the enjoyment of a style of writing I’m not completely familiar with. I love surprises!  

Pick this book if you are interested in poetry, outer space, adventure, and wordplay. 

Emily Fullenwider, Art Editor

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